Tuesday, September 16, 2008

REVIEW: "Miracle In Rwanda"

Violence destroyed by Artistry Par Excellence
By Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D.
"We artists are indestructible; even in a prison or in a concentration camp, I would be almighty in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell." -- Pablo Picasso

As Pablo Picasso has wisely shared, Leslie Lewis Sword has become an indestructible artist through her masterful work called Miracle in Rwanda, performing 10 different roles, and speaking three different languages: Rwandan, French and English, leaving indelible marks on her audience about the power of forgiveness and its strength to stop intergenerational transmission of violence.

For countries in the Middle East and their intergenerational cycles of war and peace, or even in my birthplace, Philippines, with its recurring conflicts between the Muslims and the Christians, or wars brewing now in different parts of the world, this play has a universal appeal. By next year, the play would have traveled to worldwide audiences: New York, Florida, Scotland, Costa Rica, Maryland, Stanford, Los Angeles and Rwanda. Throughout 2009, the play is fully booked. To have its Los Angeles debut during the World Music Sacred Festival, Sept. 13-28 is a stroke of genius by its executive producer, Ted Benito, but also adds to the sacredness of its message.

Miracle in Rwanda, a play about Immaculee Ilibagiza’s 91 days of ordeal, confined in a closet-sized bathroom with 7 other women is radical peacemaking. This play was created and was performed by Leslie Lewis Sword. Leslie received her MFA in acting from UCLA’s Department of Theater and Arts and has a BA from Harvard University, cum laude. As featured in Flipinas Magazine, she made her New York debut of Miracle in Rwanda in April 2007. Leslie then took the play to Edinburgh, Scotland, where it became a “ Top 10 Plays “ to watch from 1000 plays showcased.

Miracle in Rwanda is revolutionary as it stops violence from being passed onto the next generation, and instead, in its place, peace. It opens hearts, and it illustrates how hope is sustained amidst terror and adversity through absolute faith in God. And with the power of forgiveness, comes a release of a burdened past, of one’s wounded self being healed, and a wholeness emerging in the present. And with a transformed self, no longer carrying the burdens of a violent past, nor the present by its past’s unconscious power, one is able to fearlessly forge forward.

As Leslie performed for 70 minutes, the audience journeyed with her, into the inner chambers: of fears, of horrors, of pain, and into the outer chambers: of loud chants, stomping feet, dead bodies, of shriveled lives of terrorists, as if animals craving for drips of blood.

She performed as the terrorists and effectively demonstrated their depraved abilities and affinities towards violence: physical, psychological and imagined. She deftly performed their opposites as well: how Immacullee transforms her inner self to first consider, then to consciously create small spaces, then choosing pathways to forgiveness, developing in the process an interpersonal intimacy with Jesus and Mary.

At the end of the show, folks gave her minutes-long standing ovation, generously wrote checks for the orphans of Rwanda, and bought copies of “ Left to Tell “, a memoir written by Immacullee Illibigaza.

Such was forgiveness’ power to influence, such was its power to transform, such was its power to open American hearts to connect with Africans thousands of miles away. It is generous and compassionate America at its best.

Leslie Lewis Sword, an American performance artist of Filipina and African American descent, went beyond her own identity, went beyond her ethnic origins, went beyond her learned multiple languages, including a very privileged background of being born to self-made multimillionaires Reginald Lewis and Loida Nicolas Lewis, to embrace the horrors of this Rwandan genocide, which lasted three months, with 1,000,000 African people senselessly butchered in April 1994, while faced with worldwide indifference, until France intervened. Former President Bill Clinton, for all his greatness in being a good steward of the American economy, visited Rwanda to apologize for the absence of American-initiated interventions to stop this genocide.

But while the U.S. government failed to care, the power of Leslie, a single American citizen to show care, compassion and empathy for others, is growing in depth and impact. Leslie’s private immersion into Rwanda’s genocide led to her own friendship with Immacullee, her and her husband’s own adoption of two children from Rwanda, and her artistic talents fully occupying center stage in many theaters around the world, invoking her own empathy as well as evoking her audience’s generosity to these survivors and orphans of genocide, rippling their multiplier effects, and making this play a transformation vehicle to evolve our own humanity as our collective destinies. It is the power of our American example, rather than a naked example and display of our American power of guns and violence.

Miracle in Rwanda premiered on September at the New Los Angeles Theater (514 Spring St.), attended by nuns, priests, representatives of Archbishop Oscar Solis, television anchors, Los Angeles Times’ critic, and Asian community representatives who were moved to tears. It will run until Sept. 28, from Thursdays to Sundays.

If you want to heal, see this play. If you want to know how to forgive, see this play. If you are an artist and need inspiration, see this play. If you are a progressive, tired of the horrors of war, see this play. If you are a seeker and wish to know how to capture your destiny’s potential, see this play. If you want to know the depths of the rosaries, the sorrowful mysteries and the glorious mysteries and Jesus’ sacrifice of his own life that you and I may live in HIS LOVE, see this play. If you are an avid theater goer who is looking for avant garde works of art, see this play. If you are a lover of cultures and languages, see this play. And lastly, if you are about PEACE, see this play! And for about five lattes, you can help heal the world and end intergenerational violence!

[For showtime and ticket information, click here to go to "Miracle in Rwanda's" website.]
Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. retired from the California Department of Public Health, after a 27 years’ public service career as its regional administrator. She served as the city of Los Angeles’ commissioner to the Civil Service Commission and Convention Center, appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa from 2005-2008. She is a 34 years’ community advocate and volunteer in literacy, civil rights and leadership development. She is an author whose works have been published in the Los Angeles Times, Philippine News, Taliba, Balita, Los Angeles Asian Journal, UCLA’s Amerasia Journal and Quality Press-published newsletters for the American Society of Quality. She is part of the 2,000,000 volunteers, self-organizing for Obama 2008.

[picture: The Guardian]

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